Leadership Case (Case adapted from Leadership: Research Finding, Practice, and Skills (4th Edition), DuBrin, A.J. Houghton Mifflin, pp. 130-132.)
Westport Industries, a major manufacturer, is trying to close a major contract with Sync Industries to purchase one of its subsidiaries that doesn't seem to fit well with Syncs's other business ventures. The contract with Sync would allow Westport to expand into related business areas in which it has expertise.
Nick is the person at Westport responsible for ensuring the acquisition is completed on time and on terms favorable to Westport. His team of employees has four months to finish the final bid that will be submitted to the top management team and board at Sync. One of Nick's team members is Dirk, a director in the finance department. Dirk is a specialist brought in to arrange the financial aspects of the acquisition. Dirk, who is technically excellent, has worked on similar acquisition projects over the past decade that he has worked with Westport. However, he has little experience outside of finance. Dirk brought two of his direct reports from finance to the acquisition project, Ralph and Susan. Ralph has been working for the company for about five years, and has successfully completed several relatively easy projects as part of larger projects. Ralph's primary focus is to complete his projects as quickly and efficiently as possible. He likes to meet frequently to receive feedback on his progress, preferring daily meetings. Susan has been working for Westport's finance department for only three years, and while seen as proficient given her experience level, she still has a lot to learn about financing acquisitions. On the other hand, Susan is seen as particularly valuable on teams because of her ability to relate to other people, especially people from different departments at Westport.
During the last team meeting, Nick started, "Good morning. Thanks for being so punctual. Before we get down to business, I would like to thank each of you for the great job you did analyzing the preliminary numbers for the pending acquisition. You not only thoroughly analyzed the situation, but you completed the project early. Everyone is very happy with your work. Because of your extraordinary effort, Westport will take all of you out to any restaurant in town this weekend."
"This morning I would like to discuss the next phase of this acquisition. Given the preliminary numbers you generated, Westport's CEO has decided to proceed with the process. Everyone upstairs thinks this acquisition is a great opportunity for Westport to expand, going into related markets that otherwise would have taken us years to crack. If we can pull this purchase off, we will have a presence in each of the major markets. Our power will increase, as will our profits."
"To ensure our success, I am looking for collaboration. Dirk has asked Ralph to be project coordinator. Ralph will check in with Dirk periodically, especially if you confront any unexpected problems. In addition, we need to form three smaller teams, bringing in additional employees as needed, to assist with various smaller projects that must be completed on time if the overall acquisition is going to be successful. Both conscientiousness and creativity will be required to get the jobs done well and on time. We need to support these small teams, especially since many of the team members will be inexperienced and not necessarily understand the big picture."
"I know this acquisition is larger and somewhat different from those we have done in the past. But, I am confident that you and your teams will do your jobs well. Because of the ongoing, extra effort required to put this deal together over the next few months, the CEO has authorized me to offer bonuses to everyone involved if we complete the acquisition. I want to be of assistance if you need it. So, feel free to stop by my office or send me an email if you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns."
Shortly after the meeting, Ralph discusses his plans about completing the project with Dirk. Dirk appeared uninterested. "Whatever you do will be fine. Nick and I both know that you are capable or we wouldn't have asked you to lead the project," Dirk said. "We don't need to meet as long as you give me weekly written reports about the status of the project. If you have questions you can send me an email or try to catch me in the halls. If I have any new ideas, I will send you an email."
"By the way, I don't care how much time you put in on this project, but make certain the other work doesn't fall through the cracks. In addition, I want this finished a week before the deadline that Nick set. If something happens and our acquisition is unsuccessful, the blame will fall squarely on your shoulders as project leader. It won't look good on your annual review. But, I'm sure you can motivate everyone to do a good job. Well, I have another meeting about to start."
As Dirk walked Ralph out of his office, he said, "If you need advice, you can send me an email."
Ralph called Susan into his office after his meeting with Dirk. After telling her how much he looks forward to working with her on the acquisition project, he described his meeting with Dirk. Susan said nothing, but seemed a little annoyed. Ralph tried to shift the tone of the meeting by saying, "I know that you are very personable and the other workers think highly of you. I am going to need you to help me motivate them to put forth their best efforts on this critical project. I have some ideas about who should be put on which teams, but I am open to your ideas because you know them as well as I do. In addition, I have some ideas of areas where the teams can brainstorm about creative ways to structure the deal. Finally, we need to set deadlines for each teams work so that everyone is coordinated. If one team gets off schedule, it will affect all the other teams. Finally, I know that I tend to think only about getting the tasks done well and on time. I probably should be more sensitive to the human elements, but I simply don't feel comfortable reassuring and coaching people. One reason I thought of working with you on this project is that you complement me. Your strength is my weakness. I need you to let me know if the teams need my support and I expect you to do your usual excellent job of paying attention to the "people" issues."
"I appreciate your confidence in me," responded Susan. "I haven't worked on this type of project before, so I look forward to seeing how an acquisition is pulled together-especially large acquisitions like this one. Almost everyone I have talked with is also looking forward to working on this project. For example, I know that Sheila really wants to develop her expertise in this area, although some of the others are a bit apprehensive about the demands and worry that they might screw something up."
"I think you are better with people than you think, but I feel comfortable working with teams to facilitate their processes and look for any potential problems. However, I still don't know enough about the acquisition process to oversee the details or coordinate the work. In terms of motivating people, I think small rewards for progress, such as dinners out, might help keep people energized. No doubt, this will be a significant increase in responsibilities for everyone on the teams, including me. But, I'm sure we can pull it off."
Ralph said, "That's exactly what I need from you, and your monitoring the teams' attitudes and progress is critical. Your willingness to take it on takes a load off my mind. I will take care of making sure the projects are technically correct and coordination among the different teams. Just keep me informed about attitudes and any problems that need my attention. As for the rewards, I think it is a good idea, but I need to run it by Dirk first."
"Do you have time to work on team assignments now, or should we meet later? Ralph asked. "I can do whatever works best for you, although I will be in meetings later today."
Susan replied, "Let me first talk to the people who I think want to be on the project teams and gauge their interest and availability. Then you and I can meet, followed by a group meeting. What do you think?"
Ralph responded, "That sounds fine. Thanks for your help, and let's hope everything goes smoothly. By the way, I am willing to meet with the people to address motivation problems. I didn't mean to imply that I wouldn't. I simply know that I don't enjoy giving pep talks and I'm not sure how good I am at motivating people. But, together we can get this acquisition done right. Thanks, and I will see you soon."
QUESTION: Where on the Leadership Grid would you locate each of the following: Nick, Dirk, Ralph, and Susan? Explain the basis for your answer.
Nick: Team Management (9, 9)
Nick is a balanced leader who places emphasis on results but at the same time considers the human side to be equally important for achieving success. He acknowledged employees on their great performance with the initial stage of acquisition and rewarded them for their good work. In the same meeting he communicated company's plans for going ahead with acquisition which demanded collaboration for success. He outlined the basic approach he would use for the project and introduced key people. He expressed his concern that the project was different from ones which were done in the past and extended his help. Nick showed confidence in employees and provided a boost to their morale. He also communicated his plans to reward employees ...
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